Metohija (Serbian Cyrillic: Метохија, pronounced [mɛtɔ̌xija]) or Dukagjini (Albanian: Rrafshi i Dukagjinit, pronounced [ˈrafʃi i dukaˈɟinit])) is a large basin and the name of the region covering the southwestern part of Kosovo.[a] The region covers 35% (3,891 km2) of Kosovo's total area. According to the 2011 census, the population of the region is 700,577.
It encompasses three of the seven districts of Kosovo:
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The name Metohija derives from the Greek word μετόχια (metókhia, metochion), meaning "monastic estates" – a reference to the large number of villages and estates in the region that were owned by the Serbian Orthodox monasteries and Mount Athos during the Middle Ages.
The term "Kosovo and Metohija" (Serbian Cyrillic: Косово и Метохија) was in official use for the autonomous province until 1974, when the constitutional status of Kosovo underwent major changes in a newly established constitution of SFR Yugoslavia. The 1974 constitution dropped the term "Metohija", and "Kosovo" became the official term for the province as a whole. The change was not accepted in Serbia, where the old name continued to be in use (for example in the 1986 SANU Memorandum). In 1989, the then Serbian President Slobodan Milošević promulgated a new constitution that greatly reduced the province's autonomy and restored the old name, thus symbolically undoing the earlier reforms.
Metohija is 23 km (14 mi) wide at its broadest point and about 60 km (37 mi) long, at an average altitude of 450 m (1,476 ft) above sea level. Its principal river is the White Drin. It is bordered by the mountain ranges Mokra Gora in the north and northwest, the Prokletije in the west, Paštrik (Albanian: Pashtrik) in the southwest, the Šar Mountains (Albanian: Malet e Sharrit) in the south and southeast, and Drenica, which distinguishes it from the rest of Kosovo in the east and northeast.
The geographic division between Metohija and rest of Kosovo causes differences between the two areas' flora and fauna. Metohija has the characteristic influences of the Mediterranean, while rest of Kosovo's ecology does not differ from Central Serbia's.
Metohija consists of fertile arable land with many small rivers which provide water for irrigation and, in combination with the Mediterranean climate, give excellent fields except for cereals. This area is well known for its high-quality vineyards, fruit orchards, and for the growing of chestnut and almond trees.
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Based on archaeology, the region of Kosovo and Metohija and the Morava Valley were interconnected in the Neolithic (Starčevo and Vinča) and Eneolithic. The Triballi of Morava entered Kosovo in two waves in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, then took part in the genesis of the Dardani. Necropolises near Zhur suggest that the southwesternmost part of Metohija at the end of 6th century BC was subject to Illyrian influx. After the Roman conquests, the Metohija region was divided into Dardania and Praevalitana.
Coinciding with the decline of the Roman Empire, many "barbarian" tribes passed through the Balkans, most of whom did not leave any lasting state. The Slavs, however, overwhelmed the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Principality of Serbia included the city of Destinikon, which is mostly believed to have been in Metohija. The region was conquered by Bulgaria in the early 10th century, after which Byzantine rule was restored in ca. 960. Stefan Nemanja was recognized independent in 1190; most of Kosovo and Metohija were in Serbian hands. During the Fall of the Serbian Empire, the Branković family held most of the region of Metohija.
The area was taken by the Kingdom of Montenegro in the 1912 First Balkan War except Prizren area, conquered by Kingdom of Serbia. During the First World War, Montenegro was conquered by the Austro-Hungarian forces in 1915. The Central Powers were pushed out of Metohija by the Serbian Army in 1918. Montenegro subsequently joined the Kingdom of Serbia, which was followed by the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Kingdom was reformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. The Kingdom suffered an Axis invasion during World War II in 1941, and the region of Metohija was incorporated into Italian-controlled Albania, with the Italians employing the "Vulnetari", an Albanian volunteer milita, to control the villages. After Italy's treaty with the Allies in 1943, the Germans took direct control over the region, supported by the local Albanian collaborationists (Balli Kombëtar). After numerous rebellions of Serb Chetniks and Yugoslav Partisans, Metohija was captured by Serb forces in 1944. In 1946, it became part of Serbia's Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, within the transitional Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.
On 17 February 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. The country still considers Metohija part of its sovereign territory.